Pathfinding: Chasing a love for gaming to Xbox from Retail
Albert Dankwa III on the importance of taking every opportunity to grow your network and share your passions.
For some, the journey into the games industry takes years of persistence and career building in another field before networking and passion lands them that job in gaming. Over the next few weeks, we are going to feature the stories of Xbox employees that started their careers in Retail and explore how they transitioned into their current roles in Xbox. Today, let's meet Albert Dankwa III, a Content Program Manager for Xbox Support.
Albert describes himself growing up as an inner-city youth that loved games and media communications. He started his career journey working at the NBC Studio Tour desk after earning an Associates of Arts degree in Psychology from the City University of New York (CUNY) Bronx Community College in 2011. During this time, Albert earned a special assignment at NBC Universal, and in 2012 was given the opportunity to help guests navigate the building during election week. It was a weekend job that most people didn't want, but Albert jumped at the chance to do some additional work.
As fate would have it, one of the event sponsors was Windows 8. A Microsoft employee overheard Albert giving a coworker advice about Xbox and requested his information, and when Microsoft started construction on the flagship Microsoft Store in NYC Albert got a call inviting him to interview. He recalls thinking "this is my chance, even though it's retail. I thought I would be an outsourced vendor, but when I got my first paycheck it hit me that I was really working for Microsoft – I was an actual Microsoft employee."
Determined to be the "gaming person" at the Microsoft Store, Albert volunteered for every gaming event the store hosted and met some influential people along the way. The first Minecraft workshop they hosted was attended by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. The next year, at the midnight launch of Tom Clancy's The Division, Albert was asked to accompany the visiting corporate team to answer any gaming questions they might have – and was the store guide for Larry Hryb, Xbox Live's Major Nelson. Major Nelson advised Albert to create a portfolio to showcase his work, so that night, inspired by Xbox Wire, he started an online magazine called Nickel in which he shared his 5 cents on gaming as he saw it from his job on 5th Avenue.
Albert continued his education while working, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Media Studies from CUNY in 2015 and a Masters in Teaching and Learning with Technology from Ashford University in 2018, after which he began to pivot his career to enterprise customer success training. He trained retail store and field employees, ensuring they understood everything from Surface to HoloLens to Xbox. When Microsoft made the decision to close its retail stores, it started a career experience program to offer retail employees the opportunity to work across different disciplines, and a chance to interview for a corporate job at the end. Seeing this as an opportunity to get back into gaming, Albert applied for the openings at Xbox and got a job managing the web pages for the Xbox Series X launch. At the end of the program Albert received a call telling him that they did not have a role that was a good fit for him. Then, in what he describes as "the most shocking message I've ever received in my career," he was told that they would create a role for him.
What a Content Program Manager does
Albert began work soon after, and within the first week was writing his first script and jumping into his first project: cutting down cost and production time for Xbox Support videos. Albert explored what other teams at Microsoft were doing to create videos while teaching himself a new system and sourcing freelancers to help him create content. He focused on sourcing talent around the globe, which gave the team more continuous coverage for support and helped reduce costs. He continued building relationships across Microsoft and Xbox so that it was easier to collaborate and get knowledge from the product teams. When the improvement project was fully operational, Albert succeeded in cutting costs, allowing the team to create more support videos, and reduced production time from 6 weeks to 2.5 weeks.
From there, Albert's manager asked him to start incorporating social media into his plans – engaging in Twitter and YouTube regularly. Albert describes the role as a "hybrid between a project manager and a social media manager." As the Content Program Manager for the Xbox Support Team, Albert runs the content calendar, managing the schedule for YouTube and Twitter. He also contributes content to the calendar, writing and approving scripts for support videos and tweets for Xbox Support. Finally, he acts as a producer, hiring and managing a team of freelancers, to get the videos recorded, edited, approved, and posted to the Xbox Support YouTube channel.
Quotes from Albert
"Don't chase a role, chase what you love to do. I never said I wanted to be a Content Program Manager, I just said this is what I love to do, and I did it and kept chasing what I loved until the right role literally was created for me."
"LinkedIn, LinkedIn, LinkedIn. LinkedIn has been the most important platform in my career development. When you're chasing what you love, you also have to be visible, and LinkedIn helps with visibility. When I first started I felt like a used car salesman, trying to pitch to everyone, and I felt like I was trying to pressure people or convince them I could help them. With LinkedIn I could just introduce myself, tell them about my interests and what I was doing, and invite them to check it out online."
"I'm very close with my BAM (Blacks at Microsoft) chapter in New York. They taught me so much about building a network and looked at me as one of their own. I credit a lot of my soft skills growth to them. I give back by assisting in the summer mentorship program for high performing kids in the tri-state area."
In addition to his Nickel Gaming Magazine, Albert began recording and posting unboxing videos, demos, and reviews of the new inventory the retail store received for display models. He used his vacation time to attend industry events such as E3, PAX, and Comic Cons and conducted impromptu interviews with people he met at the events. He would use these interviews, and swag collected at events, as motivation and prizes for the sales teams back in NYC. He gamified the retail team's monthly targets and rewarded top performers, improving overall participation and team morale. The success of that program gained the attention of Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming, who encouraged him to expand the program and offered more official prizes from Xbox HQ.
Albert's favorite games are Titanfall 2, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, Halo Infinite, and Cyberpunk 2077.